Police cars: GAZ 21L GAI. Made in the USSR in 1963. Power – 75 hp. Moscow transport museum

The GAZ M21 Volga is an automobile produced in the Soviet Union by GAZ (Gorkovsky Avtomobilniy Zavod, in English “Gorky automobile factory”) from 1956 to 1970. The first car to carry the Volga name, it was developed in the early 1950s. Volgas were built with high ground clearance (which gives it a specific “high” look, contrary to “low-long-sleek” look of Western cars of similar design), rugged suspension, strong and forgiving engine, and rustproofing on a scale unheard of in the 1950s.

The Volga was stylistically in line with the major American manufacturers of the period in which it was introduced, and incorporated such then-luxury features as the reclining front seat, cigarette lighter, heater, windshield washer and three-wave radio.

When in 1959 the six-cylinder line of GAZ cars was discontinued, GAZ M-21 Volga became the biggest and most luxurious car officially sold to individual owners in the USSR in large quantities; though its very high price made it unavailable for most car buyers, 639,478 cars were produced in total.

Third series 1962–1970

The third series was produced from 1962 to 1970. The 1962 models dropped the leaping-deer hood ornament, and had a new grille. It used a 6.7:1 compression engine of 75 PS (55 kW) with an optional 7.65:1 compression of 80 PS (59 kW; 79 hp) (usually reserved for the export models).

The headliner changed from cloth to vinyl, and the radio became optional.

It was offered as the standard M21L, M21T taxi, and right-hand drive M21N export model.

Also in 1962, GAZ advertised a station wagon/estate model, the M22; most of these were exported or reserved for official use. The first station wagons/estates were delivered in 1963, and were designated M22 (75 PS (55 kW)), M22G (export, 75 hp (56 kW; 76 PS)), M22T (export, 85 PS (63 kW)); ambulances were M22B (75 PS (55 kW)) and M22BK (85 PS (63 kW)).

An M22 prototype four-wheel drive station wagon/estate was also built, as was an M22A van.

Belgian importer Sobimpex N.V. assembled Volgas locally for sale in Western Europe. These were often fitted with diesel engines; the cars arrived in Antwerp without an engine and with the gearbox in the trunk. Originally (beginning in 1960) Sobimpex fitted a 1.6-liter Perkins 4.99 unit, a larger Rover engine supplanted that in 1963, and the more modern Indenor four-cylinder units replaced the Rover engine in 1964. Belgian-built cars were marketed as “Scaldia-Volgas”, named after the Latin name for the river Scheldt. While the diesel models cost considerably more than ones with the original engine, they were quite popular for their economy and reliability, and outsold the petrol models in both Belgium and the Netherlands.

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